We all want to be the best piper we can be. We work hard, dedicate time to practice, spend money on equipment, training and for many of us, competitions. It can be disheartening and an ego crusher to play well in our basement, and then wind up in the bottom of the heap on competition day.
The competition "offseason" is the perfect opportunity to train in a way that will improve your competitive chances. These tips will have you moving up the results in no time.
Play with distractions. Most of us hide away in our basements or bedrooms to practice our competition music. We can get totally focused, and really play our best. Then we get to the games where the other competitors are scooting by, warming up too close, spectators stop and gawk, and the judge is sitting there with pen in hand. At one piobaireachd competition I was halfway through the ground when the featured Celtic Rock Band began playing about 100 yards away. Needless to say, distractions on competition day are a given.
Play around other people, especially where people can see you. Work on your focus in that environment, and you’ll be more comfortable when people are around you at the games. (It’s great advertising too, if you’re a gigging piper.)
Play in the environment you’ll compete in. When we emerge from our basements on games day, we are suddenly thrust into the great outdoors. It’s going to be too hot, too cold, too humid, too buggy, too early. Leading up to the competition, try to practice in an environment similar to your contest. That may include being outdoors on the time of day you would normally compete. If you are accustomed to practicing at night after dinner, it may feel strange to play at 10 or 8am at some games.
Is it raining out? Go play in the rain. Guess what happens when it rains on game day? The contest goes on. Is it too hot to practice outside? Guess what? There is no air conditioning on the games pitch. Learn what all of this that feels like before you have to find out in front of a judge.
The recorder is the judge. Duplicate your competition experience by treating your recording device as the judge. Walk up to the “judge” and give your tunes (turn on “record”). Warm up as you would on games day and present your tune. Whatever happens, happens. Get used to the conditions and pressure of performing once and making it count.